Hello you! If you missed Monday’s post, click here to see how we got here: Today is Part 2 of an exploration of musical rests. This month I thought it would be marvelous and wonderful and amazing (why downplay it?) to look at some of the ways that God has shown us that rest is good.
He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:14)…and that we are a little thick-headed too. In the same way that we learn by repetition, and in the same way that a repeating pattern is pleasing to us, the Lord repeats His message (that rest is good) in many ways. After all, there are so many different kinds of people. Isn’t God good?
Here is the second half of my “interview” with Doug Yeo, a professional bass trombonist with almost three decades at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a current gig as a Professor in the Music Department of Arizona State University (and a lot of other very, very cool credits, BTW, so check out his internationally acclaimed website yeodoug.com):
Britta: You are a very energetic and animated person in conversation. It seems ironic that your instrument was one that required so much quiet and patience – have you thought about how God used all these years of playing and resting to shape you, spiritually?
Doug Yeo: We live in a chaotic and disordered world. It is rare that we have – or take – opportunities to STOP and reflect on what is really going on around us. While I am an Energizer bunny in the way I order my life – I don’t like to waste time and the word “boredom” is not in my vocabulary – I have always appreciated the time of rest that I get when playing in the symphony orchestra. Surrounded by glorious music, this kind of rest – sitting still while this great sound is washing over me and no clock to remind me that there is something else that needs to be done next – has been a very helpful balance in my life. One cannot be “on” all the time. Rest is important to replenish the soul. [Love that! It bears repeating: One cannot be “on” all the time. Rest is important to replenish the soul.]
Britta: I am a blank slate when it comes to musical theory. Are there different kinds of rests in music? What is the purpose of the rest in terms of music theory/performance? Can you imagine music without any rests?
Doug Yeo: Rests are part of musical notation that are inserted in a player’s part to let him or her know how long to wait until you have to play again. Sometimes you might have count just one or two beats of the music, or a handful of measures. Other times you may have to count hundreds of bars of music, or even “tacet” – Italian for “silence” – a whole movement when you don’t have anything to play. Music without rests would be relentless. Imagine an hour of music when every instrument played every second. Darkness only has context against light. Color only has context against black and white. Movement only has context against rest. When composers write melodies, they ebb and flow, stop and start. Various instruments come out of the orchestra’s texture providing variety, balance and subtle changes in tonal shading. Music needs rest. All of life needs rest.
Britta: The focus of my attention this month is how God teaches us about Himself by the experiences He designs and orchestrates (I couldn’t resist) for us. Do you see any purpose in the musical rest beyond what any typical music theory text would give?
Doug Yeo: While a musician looks at a rest in a piece of music and sees a task to complete – “Stop playing for this long and begin to play again when the rest is over” – I see a deeper meaning. God has given mankind music and the other arts for His pleasure and our enjoyment. He did not need to do this. He could have created a world without music, without color, without variety. He could have made all leopard spots be the same, all saguaro cacti have the same number of arms, all people with brown hair. But He didn’t. He created variety, and in music, rest is part of that variety. We need only to look at how God created the universe to see that He himself values rest. After a day of creating the heavens and earth, he stopped, saw it was good, and stopped. There was an interval – a rest – before he went about his creative work on the next day. Christ also rested – in his humanness, he needed refreshment, he needed to stop and refuel by sleeping to prepare for the day ahead. In this, rests and music mirror the rhythm of how God created and designed all of nature, of which we humans are a part. In our dysfunctional world that groans under the labor of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, recognizing the value of rest is important as we contend for Christ in the midst of all that is going on around us. The great composer Paul Hindemith, in his poem, “The Posthorn”, said it so well:
“Your task it is, amid confusion, rush and noise, to find the lasting, calm and meaningful and, finding it anew, to hold and treasure it.”
Confusion, rush and noise. Lasting, calm and meaningful.
Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still and know I am God.”
Take time to be still. Get your rest.
Britta: Amen 🙂 Thank you Doug your observations are refreshing and inspirational!